Monday, June 21, 2010
The Surf Diaries
“...days are starting to blur together… everything is backward now… like out there is the true world and in here is the dream…. I don’t even remember my old life… I don’t know who I am anymore.”
Okay that's not quite the case here. I am out on the water for over two hours today, and I take a beating. I am pounded by waves, I am bumped against the massive ribs of the seafloor, my board falls on me or the leash is ripped with such venom it stings my leg.
No I am not surfing every single day; a marrow freezing cold front has moved over and God help me, I didn't surf for the 3 icy days when our mountains were covered in sheets of snow. But I find out it's at times like these that you get the best waves. I take my camera into the rain and wind and cold and shoot some of the local surfers working some typical winter swell.
Winter is a time when you can expect that leash around your leg to streeeeeeeetch to breaking point. The waves are bigger, the water is colder, everything is a rougher and tougher environment. With each passing front, the waters are whipped up to test the fibre, no...what's a better word...the mettle, of the surfer.
Today I watched a lanky haired youngster on a board about 3 feet longer than mine catch a wave and stand, easy as you please. He's on a longboard, which means when he's prostrate in the water, his toes are comfortably touching the board, and all he has to do is position himself, and then stand. I'm on a min-mal, which means my ankles and feet are dragging in the water behind me. When I catch a wave I have to pop up onto the board with both feet in a single, fleet footed movement. I have to use my arms and also upper legs and knees to create that momentum, and I'm not quite there yet.
I can wave my finger day and night, and say that a longboard is so much easier, but on surf #13 I had to rub my eyes when I saw someone surfing on what looked like a boogie board. That's no exaggeration. I saw this kid stand and surf, not once, but a few times, on a board probably half as long as mine. It looked like an overgrown kickboard.
As you've probably picked up, yes I am surfing between all the surfers now, moving gingerly amongst them, watching them with envy as they catch waves all around me. I can't blame the waves, or the board. There's just me. And so, I'm determined to improve. Even so:
Jake Sully: Outcast. Betrayer. Alien. I was in the place the eye does not see. I needed their help. And they needed mine. But to ever face them again, I was going to have to take it to a whole new level.
Well I doubt whether they need my help, other than to get out of the way, and to make sure my board doesn't bash them on the head. But yes, I still need to graduate a few more levels. I'm nowhere near as good as they are, but at least I am learning by doing. I know I need more time, more consistent effort, to evolve into something that resembles a surfer. Right now, on the evolutionary daisy-chain, I'm somewhere between a turtle and a penguin.
One thing about being out there, in the water, is the dance of life. The sun on the water, the swell shifting under you, the peace and quiet of a few individuals drifting together, heads turned, and alert, toward the rising sets.
“the flow of energy… the spirit of animals… a network of energy that flows through all living things"
It is a magical experience to be able to go out there, to walk barefoot from one's bed, board under arm, and to test oneself against the water. This is the great gift of the outdoors. And I have moments when I stand on a wave. But all too brief. I imagine a more intimate experience, a more prolonged exposure to standing and joining with the rhythm of a wave under my feet. But I'm not there yet.